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Injuries have forced the Bengals to adjust in the secondary. They have had multiple players start at each of the four base positions (right and left cornerback, strong and free safety). Their strong safety, Nate Clements, is a longtime cornerback.
The Bengals have struggled more vs. the pass than they did a season ago, but the pass defense has had its moments, such as when it held the Giants’ strong passing game in check in Week 10.
Overall, “guys have done a good job of stepping up,” Bengals defensive backs coach Mark Carrier told PFW this week.
Contributions throughout the depth chart have helped chemistry, Carrier said.
“There’s a lot of mutual respect for one another,” he said.
Clements, who turns 33 in December, has embraced the position change, seeing it as a way to extend his career, Carrier said. Carrier, a standout NFL safety himself, said that Clements’ professionalism and physicality have helped him transition to the new position.
“He’s always been a good tackler,” Carrier said.
The presence of veteran CB Terence Newman allowed Clements to be moved more easily to safety. Released by Dallas in the offseason, Newman has been the starting left cornerback for much of the campaign.
“This guy still can play,” Carrier said. “He’s been great for us.”
Newman and other veteran cornerbacks have worked closely with rookie CB Dre Kirkpatrick, who only recently made his NFL debut because of a knee injury.
“He just finished his training camp,” Carrier said of Kirkpatrick, a first-round pick out of Alabama.
This is a Bengals secondary not lacking in well-regarded players, with seven former first-round picks on the depth chart. Also, S Taylor Mays was regarded as a first-round talent. Mays, who began the campaign as a starter, has held a backup role for most of the season. Carrier wants the forrmer USC star to avoid “overthinking of plays” and to simply just play. Carrier praised Mays' work ethic, noting that “no one tries harder than him.”